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If I had a dinosaur

Gabby Dawnay, Alex Barrow (illus)
Thames and Hudson
Age 0-5

This is a story about a little girl who wants a pet, and not content with the typical range, she wants one that is as big as a house! Clearly a dinosaur would be perfect. The story explores what she would do if she had a pet dinosaur, where she would take it and how her friends would react when they see it.  She considers the amount of food it would eat and the inevitable big problem its bodily functions would create!

This is a story that invites participation, with a rhyming text, pictures used sometimes to complete phrases instead of words and the concept of having a pet dinosaur to discuss. The illustrations are excellent with extra detail which adds to the story telling. The book design is absolutely brilliant, from the covers inside and out to the delight of turning a page to enable a dinosaur to walk from one spread to the next or be seen from both inside and outside the house. This is a book which children will want to revisit again and again noticing more each time and will fulfil the author and illustrator’s aim to create ‘stories and pictures[which] will ignite children’s imagination and take on a life outside the pages of the books.’


Share the story

Read aloud
Before reading the story look at the cover together, open it up to show children the big dinosaur and feel the texture of its surface.

Read the story aloud, pausing so that children can say the names of some of the different pets the little girl considers helping with less familiar eg hamster perhaps. Pause also after the first double page spread to see if your child want to suggest which pet the little girl will choose which is as big as a house. Continue reading, pausing again if your child wants to talk about what is happening in the story or pictures.

Join in
As you read it again children pause so that children can complete the rhyming pair, say the name of the animal and follow the words as they go round the dinosaur’s tail with a finger.

Talk about the story

  • Share thoughts on having a dinosaur as a pet

  • If your child did want one, which dinosaur would you choose – look at the illustrations on the final double page for suggestions.

  • What noise might the dinosaur make? Can you make it?

  • What would you feed it? How much food would it need?!

Watch the story

Watch the story read aloud

Noah is very interested in dinosaurs and stories about dinosaurs, and he was eager to hear this one. He listened attentively on first reading and was keen to go back & look again, particularly at the dinosaur poo illustration!

We  returned to the story lots of times and Noah quickly began joining in, inserting words for picture clues early in the book and playing ‘if I had a dinosaur I would…’ Noah said ‘If I had a dinosaur I’d slide down his back.’ He was keen to act this idea out with toy dinosaurs and lego figures.

This book and other dinosaur stories stimulated lots of play. He enjoyed hiding dinosaurs in the garden, making a mini dinosaur world in a plastic tray and making a paper plate dinosaur. He began making connections to other stories too, in particular, We’re Going on a Bearhunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury and How to be a Lion by Ed Vere, a story about a gentle lion. Noah said: ‘We’re going on a dinosaur hunt, the dinosaur might roar, the lion will teach it to be gentle.’

Things to make and do

Play the story
Take turns with ‘If I had a dinosaur I would….’ It is a good idea to make a suggestion first eg ‘If I had a dinosaur I would take it to the park and slide down its long neck’. Your child may choose to copy you or say something from the story which is fine.

Draw a picture
Using a big piece of paper and crayons, encourage children to draw a dinosaur perhaps filling up the paper with a ‘big’, ‘giant’, enormous dinosaur with a ‘super long’ tail.

Sing a song
Sing a song about having a dinosaur 

Find out more

Find out about the background to the story
The story was inspired by the discovery of Titanosaur bones in Argentina. Titanosaurs were the largest animals to have ever walked the earth. Read more about the discovery

Author Gabby Dawnay writes about the background to the story here:

Read more books by this author and illustrator team:

London Calls

A Possum’s Tail

A Roller Coaster Ride Around the Body